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Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review

12 May 2009 (afternoon)

For use of information media; not an official record

· The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed the fulfillment of human rights obligations by the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, this afternoon, during which 39 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.

This afternoon, the Working Group also adopted, ad referendum, the report on Viet Nam, following the review of the country on Friday, 8 May.

· Presenting the national report of The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was MIHAJLO MANEVSKI, Minister of Justice of the Republic of Macedonia, who affirmed that all citizens in the Republic of Macedonia were equal before the Constitution and the laws. There was no death sentence in the Republic of Macedonia, and any form of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment was prohibited. Freedom of religion, free and public expression of faith was also guaranteed. At the same time, the citizens were guaranteed freedom of association to pursue and safeguard their political, economic, social, cultural and other rights and beliefs. In the Reporting period, the Republic of Macedonia undertook complex reforms related to the advancement and implementation of rights in various areas. After the constitutional amendments in 2001, and generally as a result of the implementation of the Framework Agreement, reforms in the area of protection and promotion of rights of non-majority communities in the Republic of Macedonia have been implemented. The Government successfully carried out the presidential and local elections in March 2009, in accordance with international standards, securing the right of every citizen to freely cast the ballot, he recalled. The Law on Secondary Education introduced compulsory free-of-charge secondary education in the Republic of Macedonia and the quality of education in universities has increased. It was also recalled that in July 2009 the implementation of the Law on Juvenile Justice will begin.

The Republic of Macedonia has acceded, by way of succession, to all major international legal human rights instruments. Recently, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, European Convention against Trafficking of Human Beings, and Council of Europe Convention on Prevention of Terrorism has been ratified as well. In 2004, the Government of the Republic of Macedonia sent a standing invitation to the mandate holders of the special procedures of the Human Rights Council. The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief, Asma Jahangir recently visited the Republic of Macedonia. Since 1997 the Office of the Ombudsman has been operational. Within the Parliament, there was the Standing Committee on Protection of Freedoms and Rights of Citizens. In 2006, a Committee for Equal Opportunities between Women and Men was established, as well as the inter-sectoral human rights body, and the National Committee for the Rights of the Child, in 2007.

On the national level, the Government will continue ratifying international human rights conventions, including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and will also continue harmonizing the national legislation to the international standards in this area, the Minister stated. Comprehensive reforms were also underway in the criminal substantive and procedural legislation, the police, fight against corruption, organized crime, including trafficking in persons. Moreover, the Government was committed to further penitentiary system reform, implementation of Roma strategy and action plans, advancement of rights of women, children and disabled and special attention was provided to the protection of this right and dignity of journalists and media. Further strengthening the cooperation with the civil sector in the advancement of human rights was one of the priorities of the Government. On international level, the Government was continuously supporting and actively participating in all efforts to further promote and develop international norms on human rights, the Minister stated.

Responding to questions submitted in advance, a member of the delegation stated that the amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia ensured the independence of judiciary, in line with the highest international standards. Moreover, the laws on Courts; on Public Prosecutors’ Office; on Misdemeanours, on Enforcement and many other laws were adopted and were being implemented. In the past three years, eight new institutions within the justice system were established and were all working successfully. As to the fight against corruption, the Republic of Macedonia remained on course to efficient prevention and repression of this phenomenon at all levels, as evidenced by the improved position on the index of perception of corruption of Transparency International, where Macedonia was ranked 74 in 2008 compared to 106 in 2006. A new Law on Criminal Procedure was also in preparation. As to the questions on the reforms in the penitentiary system, another member of the delegation stated that the penitentiary system comprised of two components: improvement of accommodation facilities for the sentenced and remand prisoners and juveniles, as well as improved working conditions for the staff, and strengthening and upgrading of human resources. Over the last two years, there had been significant renovations, as well as the building of two new penitentiary institutions with the capacity of 430 inmates. In order to improve the respect for human rights by the prison staff, in 2008 a Programme for training and education of staff was adopted, and it was the basis for the initial and continuous training of all target groups. In March 2009, in cooperation with Council of Europe, training in treatment of specific groups of inmates was organized. Regarding a question asked on the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and other types of cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, the delegation noted that this instrument was ratified in December 2008.

· During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included efforts to resolve inter-ethnic hostilities; efforts to prevent human trafficking; the extension of the standing invitation to the United Nations Special Procedures; accession to most of the core international human rights instruments; domestic violence prevention mechanisms; the adoption of the National Strategy for Justice System Reform; judicial reform measures; the setting up of the Commission on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men; the setting up of the Inter-Ministerial National Commission on Child Rights; the National Strategy on Roma; the participation of minority groups in national politics; progress being made in implementing the Ohrid Framework Agreement; and the establishment of the Inter-Ministerial Group for Integration of Refugees and Foreigners.

· Issues and questions raised by the Working Group, comprised of the 47 members of the Council, and Observers participating in the interactive discussion related to, among other things, the status of the Office of the Ombudsman; the status of the draft comprehensive law on combating discrimination; preparations for the framework anti-discrimination law; amendments being developed to the Law on Social Protection which provided for establishing a centre for victims of human trafficking; preventive measures to stamp out human trafficking; specific measures planned to counter gender imbalance; the mechanism of funding of the Network of Centres for domestic violence victims and the extent of cooperation with international partners; and the steps being taken to implement the Law on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men.

Other issues and questions pertained to the measures being envisaged to ensure peaceful co-existence in school between children of different ethnic groups; steps being taken to implement existing Roma policies; initiatives intended to address the issue of lack of access to social and economic rights to many Roma and Ashkali refugees; steps to address the root causes of violence and to foster tolerance and respect for ethnic diversity; measures planned to remedy the situation of police corruption; measures to fully implement the judicial reform; measures in place to ensure that torture and all forms of ill treatment do not take place; steps being taken to address problems of corruption in the court system; how the implementation of Law on Free Access to Information of Public Character was progressing; measures to ensure the full respect of freedom of the press; and the progress made by the Ministry of the Interior in its investigations of election-related intimidation cases.

· A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: to consider appropriate measures to ensure that the Office of the Ombudsman was in compliance with the Paris Principles, or consider setting up such an institution; to review the role of the Office of the Ombudsman to guarantee it was sufficiently funded; to establish a national human rights institution; to attach the greatest importance to implementation the Ohrid Agreement; to ratify the Optional Protocol to International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; to ensure access to education for all children; to adopt provision to stem the phenomenon of school dropouts, particularly children in rural areas and Roma children, especially girls; to focus more resources on ethnic reconciliation with school aged children to foster tolerance and appreciation for diversity in the next generation; and to redouble efforts to guarantee free education on the primary level for all children.

Other recommendations included: To intensify efforts to secure the human rights of the Roma people; to continue to ensure that the Roma, Albanian and other minorities had access to suitable and affordable housing, schooling and healthcare without discrimination of any kind; to promote the exercise the economic, social and cultural rights of Roma; to implement the Roma Strategy and Action Plans, in compliance with the Strategy and the Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015; to take measures to prevent and punish violence against Roma women; to effectively promote ethnically mixed organizations around common, civil, professional and business interest in order to combat ethnocentrism; to speed up the process of formulating a legal anti-discrimination framework; that sexual orientation and gender identity be explicitly included throughout the anti-discrimination laws and programmes in The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; to introduce adequate measures with a view of combating the segregation phenomenon; to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol; and to undertake consultation in preparation for the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was also encouraged to lower the requirements for proof of domestic violence; to implement measures for early detection and prevention of domestic violence against women and children including sexual abuse and harassment; to adopt all measures to enshrine in law equality between men and women in line with Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women; to criminalize violence against women and adopt a penal policy to enable the State to punish perpetrators; to intensify efforts to accelerate women’s equal participation at all levels in all areas of public life; to continue and increase efforts to fully combat trafficking and prostitution; to conduct a comprehensive review of the conformity of the internal law with the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and to adopt and implement legislation to prohibit corporal punishment under all circumstances and to undertake a public awareness campaign in that regard.

Additionally, States recommended that The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia consolidate the independence and the overall capacity of the judicial system; ratify the Convention on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances; prosecute any perpetrators of ill treatment of prisoners; address the concerns published in the report of the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture; include mechanisms for internal control of prison guards in the rules and regulations for prisons and detention centres; elaborate the comprehensive national programme to combat corruption, in particular in the law enforcement forces; continue and strengthen efforts to ensure the well-being of prisoners and detainees in compliance with the Convention against Torture; push ahead with the reform of the prison system; implement the Law on Protection from Discrimination and effective access to judicial remedies for those victims of discrimination; set up a police oversight mechanism; ratify the Convention on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances; and ratify the Optional Protocol to Convention against Torture.

Another set of recommendations included for The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to ensure freedom of expression and stamp out any interference of press freedom; to take effective measures to prevent intimidation of voters in future elections; to compile a new voter registration list to ensure full participation of the electorate in future elections; to continue efforts to implement the Law on Execution of Sanctions; to provide the Ministry of the Interior with necessary resources to confiscate illegal arms from the civilian population; and to monitor the implementation of the legislation concerning freedom of religion with a view to ensuring full enjoyment of the freedom to practice one’s religion by all religious communities and groups in the country.

· Members States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were the Russian Federation, France, Brazil, Switzerland, India, the Netherlands, Canada, Ukraine, Mexico, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, Azerbaijan, Nicaragua, Japan, Argentina, Malaysia, Italy and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

· Observer States participating in the discussion were Algeria, Sweden, Austria, Norway, Turkey, Poland, Morocco, the Holy See, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Spain, the Czech Republic, the United States, Kazakhstan, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, Belgium the Republic of Moldova.

· The 13-person delegation of The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, the Secretariat of the Government for Implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the State Commission for Relations with Religious Communities and Groups and the Permanent Mission of The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

· The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are Slovakia, Bangladesh and Germany.

· In accordance with its institution-building package, the three documents on which State reviews should be based are information prepared by the State concerned, which could be presented either orally or in writing; information contained in the reports of treaty bodies and Special Procedures, to be compiled in a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and information provided by other relevant stakeholders to the UPR including non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, human rights defenders, academic institutions and research institutes, regional organizations, as well as civil society representatives, also to be summarized by OHCHR in a separate document. The reports on The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia can be found here.

· Adoption of report on Viet Nam: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on Viet Nam are Burkina Faso, Japan and Canada. Introducing the report SHINICHI KITAJIMA (Japan) congratulated the Vietnamese delegation on completing its review, which was "another success of the UPR". It was hoped that the recommendations would provide useful guidance for the people of Viet Nam. Representing the State under review, PHAM BINH MINH, First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, said all the comments and the recommendations had been noted and fully represented in the adopted report. Viet Nam presented the Working Group with an overall picture of the State’s efforts to promote and protect human rights to which it was committed by way of guaranteeing the full enjoyment of people’s rights. Viet Nam accepted nearly 100 recommendations presented, while a number of others had been noted and will be seriously examined for response at a later stage.

· The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on Friday, 15 May.

· When the UPR Working Group continues its work on tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. it will review the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Comoros after which it is scheduled to adopt the report on Uruguay.

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